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Weihsueh Chiu headshot
February 12, 201811:30 am – 12:30 pm (CDT)

What Is a Physicist Doing in Vet School? (i.e., You Never Know Where a Physics Degree Might Take You)


Weihsueh Chiu (Texas A&M University)



Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics & Astronomy

College Station, Texas 77843

Event Details

Most of my colleagues in toxicology and risk assessment express surprise when they learn that my PhD is in Physics. Conversely, physicists I meet wonder how I ended up in a Vet School. My general answer is that although the topical area in which I have worked and the organizations I’ve worked for have changed, I have continued to apply critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, and computational modeling approaches to interesting problems. To explore this further, I will first take you through the various “astrophysics” phases of my past experience, starting with working at Goddard Space Flight Center in high school through “moonlighting” to write cosmology papers on nights and weekends while holding down a government “day job.” In parallel, I will describe how I underwent a “phase transition” into the fields of science policy, risk assessment, and environmental health. I will then describe some of my current research in area of risk assessment of environmental contaminants, including development and application of pharmacokinetic models and approaches to better understand population variability in susceptibility. Throughout, I will highlight a number of common themes applicable to both astrophysics and environmental risk assessment, such as combining data from multiple sources, use of computational models, and application of Bayesian statistical approaches. Overall, I would encourage trainees – whether undergraduate, graduate, or postdoctoral – to keep an open mind about alternative careers outside of physics and astronomy that nonetheless utilize their unique problemsolving skills and abilities.

Video Recording

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